Tone .Are

– Don Jose Antonio’s Christmas Lyric- (A Short Story)

In Uncategorized on December 26, 2010 at 4:38 pm

Tone Are

There had been a frigid Christmas or so, along with those warm to the bosom of holiday spirit. That much could be recalled by his two children although he never told a story twice. A prideful man; because it was that time of year again, and he was for the moment in recollection of a sentiment culminating in the surreal gathering before him, Antonio knew that if he didn’t stand and walk them off, tears would fall. So too, did his Antonia, as did his Junior.

He had never let one go, not before their eyes, all their lives they had witnessed him keep them like he kept his words. Glimpsing between he and the children, ravaging through gifts at the knees, his composed resignation in the fluster becoming his face was matter enough to forward mother a glance. She was already on it, bunching to the edge of her seat with the sense that finally, the man might have been touched, albeit several decades late of their wedding and the births of their daughter and son.

“Those are his babies,” she reasoned to a shaken Antonia, whom followed to the kitchen, dabbing at her eyes “What did I tell you the last time, when he was rolling on the floor like a dog? He gave you guys his name, but he gave them his weakness.”

Junior stood behind in the living-room. He wasn’t prepared to settle on the old man’s insistence that he was ‘ok’. There had been times in which he witnessed his father come to the cusp of emotion, but those moments occurred over a smile. Antonio meanwhile, had begun to drift back to his own childhood, and while his boy was precise in figuring nostalgia to be the source of the distance in his face, it wasn’t poverty as Junior and his sister had assumed, which was coming up for him. In fact, his struggle to keep from buckling to the memory had in part to do with he seeing himself, in their fortune.

As each of his three grandchildren returned over to thank him with wide arms in a kiss, Antonio cried.

The only time Antonio remembered ever seeing his grandfather fully dressed, much less over to visit, was on a Christmas-eve. How could he forget? He couldn’t! He never had. It was the night the whole family commenced, seated in morose contentment to listen as the 8 year old boy performed a timely dedication of Feliz Navidad, to their passing Patriarch. They had all aged with and aged under the simple yet consistent traits of his dominating character, thus, it would take those times of curious inquiry and subsequent reflection from his grandma, his mother Josephina, uncles, aunts, and family friends before Antonio understood that Don Jose Antonio’s life couldn’t be summed from where he lay bed-ridden, the way he had always known him to be.

The faces, many of which now rest along with his grandfather in ancestry, rung past in chatter that night, occasionally stopping young Antonio to measure him up cheerily. It was no more in his own interest to stray from the foolery of a game of manhunt, in closets, between chairs, under banisters, than it were in the interest of cousins and siblings streaking through the house. Most of those faces although recognizable from family functions, had never made their way around to those lengths of Brooklyn.. they had no reason to, It wasn’t where Don Jose had ever made it a point to be. And like Don Jose, it would be their last time around.

“What happened?” Tony asked John, little Josie rising with her brother and cousin like prairie dogs. “I don’t know.”

“Grandpa is ok honey, he is just thinking about something that made him cry, that’s all.” Antonia eased the children after a period of low confusion. Before the in-laws could join his wife and children in consoling him, and just as prompt he wanted to be per wiping dry in the crook of his elbow so that his grandchildren wouldnt concern too much, Antonio regained himself.

“I am ok my little monkeys. I am crying happy tears. Come over here and give Grandpa a BIG HUG! All of you.”

Dressing, as had become customary for Antonio every Christmas within recent memory: (three piece suit, shined shoes, cuff-links, and stetson,) his crisp handkerchief proved readily available. Even Junior began to well-up with a tense smirk, held together by virtue of how he couldn’t believe his eyes. “I don’t think we’ve ever seen Papi take his handkerchief out,” he laughed. “I couldn’t be more shocked if you pulled off a prosthetic arm.”

It had been a mystery to his wife as to how Antonio, raised without a father, turned out to be such a conservative man. Wasn’t like the notion of his mother being the strict influence hadn’t been apparent, it was just that in spite of the fact, it had always been difficult for her to break from stereotype to imagine that without a man in a boy’s life, he could go the extent Antonio could in repressing his emotions. But it wasn’t long after they began in a relationship, that she could recall the arising of tangents which pieced together the regal, and honorable man of distinction Antonio preferred to mention by name.

Antonio himself, though cognizant about whom he picked up after, was never perfectly aware of his grandfather’s and his own parallel direction as ‘intentional’, certainly not forced. After all, his actual memories of the man were scarce. Yet everything from his calendar of rounds for a feathered cut and manicure, to his liking for gandinga, were straight out of stories told about Don Jose Antonio; family man, man’s man, of veteran status, of underworld whispers, ladies man, behind family secrets… He looked and dressed the part, yet beneath, Antonio had grown indeed to be more a compassionate figure. A Josephina sculpted perfection of her father; whom spoke softly and carried a big stick, but left others to their own power.

So he cried?! Junior may have been taken aback… But it was something his wife, had long been waiting for him to concede to being capable of.

Don Jose Antonio was not the last to join the gathering that night. Of course much of the younger crowd would come stumbling in throughout the night to show face, before exiting to attend other parties. But he was the first and final presence to receive a uniformed welcome. The faces all turned and drew closer and closer to the living room, where he was slowly ushered to the corner seat of a couch which immediately opened up. The adults came with kisses, hugs, smiles, embraces at the hands, and brief words; the children were nudged forward to kiss their grandpa and tell him ‘bendicion’.

The bottle had been past it’s time in his life; it’s toll implicit in the denied mourning which mixed in strangely to the season spirit in the room. Where he sat, sipping lemon and tonic water, he received his grandchildren, with a careful hand and his voice a tender wooing. Upon receiving each, he would call on Antonio’s grandmother, Delores, to pass on their gift. Antonio already knew what he would be receiving. It was a guitar. He had no idea how to play one, yet in the impending weeks had been encouraged by Deloris whenever spending the afternoon with them, to perform regularly for her in the kitchen. From the bedroom, Jose would overhear his grandson’s screeching voice; lowering the television, or putting down his newspaper to focus in.

“Your grandfather likes how you sing Antonio. You hear? …Listen, Antonio, if we get you a guitar will you sing a song for your grandpa? Huh? …Don’t tell him ok?”

The only song with some hint of Spanish in it, that Antonio knew well enough to pull off was Feliz Navidad. Feliz Navidad was a standard which got airplay along with every other American ‘standard’, on radio, on television, in parties, in school. He knew it word for word. And though the lyrics of the song weren’t going to be sufficient enough to translate for word by word for the viejo, Antonio was going to sing it from the heart, and make it mean something!

The faces gathered ’round, and like a baking spot light in the dark, square before him sat Don Jose Antonio, with a stream of tears crossing a quivering lip, which broke into a humble smile, as he nodded for the show to commence.

“Corazon!” Antonio hollered over for Naima to turn around.
“We want to dedicate this song to you,” little Tony, little John, and little Josie followed sturdy as they could.
Joined behind Antonio coddling the children within his arms, were Antonia, Junior, and their spouses, meeting her smile through it’s harboring hands shaking with recognition.
And met at her felicitous eyes, whispered Antonio: “I love you,” through the chorus of Don Jose Antonio’s Christmas lyric.

Tone Are


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